My (unpopular) opinion on Da Vinci

What defines a genius?
In every list ever produced, you’ll see Leonardo Da Vinci’s name suggested as one of history’s greatest geniuses.
The Italian renaissance master is often spoken of as a visionary.
His notes overflow with his forward-thinking ideas.
He invented the first tank, the first helicopter, the double-hull.
He was responsible for producing some of the most famous pieces of work in the history of art.
Last year, I visited the Chateau du Clos Luce in Amboise, the palace that was Da Vinci’s final resting place.
The palace is filled with what his inventions would have looked like had they ever been built.
Because this is the thing.
Most of his ‘inventions’ never actually got invented.
They remained concepts on paper.
And that’s where they stayed.
For all the ideas he had, Da Vinci had so few that made it off the page and into reality.
He was a thinker, not a doer.
Yes, he may have painted the Mona Lisa.
But he carried that painting around for years constantly tweaking and touching it up.
His actual output compared with other renaissance masters was pitiful.
He was a bloody tinkerer.
Now, this may seem like sacrilege calling out Da Vinci.
(I mean, honestly, who am I to judge genius?)
But here’s what really p*sses me off.
Firstly, his so-called genius is only based on his conceptualisations.
Very few were actually created during his lifetime.
He was the master of the idea.
Not of the doing.
Yet, he’s held in the highest regard.
If you just look at the list of “geniuses”, all of them are serial implementers. People who have created, built and forged something from nothing.
Compare this to Thomas Edison… the man who ran 1,000 experiments to finally produce the light bulb?
What about the greatest builders of all time, Khufu and his Pyramids and the Qin Dynasty with the Great Wall of China?
And the great thinkers who didn’t produce anything but inspired ideas which DID change the world.
Goethe, Newton, Dickens, Galileo, Descartes, Paine, Jefferson… their thinking and their ideas put into practice caused ripples throughout history.
Really what is Da Vinci’s legacy?
Look… I like a lady holding ermine just as much as the next man, but let’s put this in perspective.
The majority of his ideas made it no further than the ideas stage.
And because of that people suffered.
Humanity suffered.
You constantly hear how Da Vinci came up with theories about anatomy and engineering hundreds of years before they were finally put to the test.
If the man was an action-taker, just think how many lives would have been saved, changed and transformed.
Holding onto an idea without putting it into practice is a crime.
My hero is the man who wrongly lives in the shadow of Da Vinci.
His rival.
I prefer to worship the much-maligned Michelangelo.
(For the slighly less cultured among us, he was the Ninja Turtle wearing the orange mask).
Yes, his personal hygiene was deplorable.
He was withdrawn.
And a bit of weirdo.
But his output was incredible.
David.
The Pieta.
The Sistine Chapel.
If you’ve seen any of these in real life, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.
That’s why it annoys me that the Da Vincis – the ideas guy – get all the plaudits.
A great idea that’s never realised is a travesty.
If it really has the power to change lives.
To improve how people live…
… keeping it from them is unforgiveable.
That’s why you need to pull your goddamn finger out and get that idea out of your head and changing lives right now.
Be less Da Vinci…
… and more Michelangelo.
Choose action over inaction.
Practice over theory.
Hope over fear.
Whatever it is you’re holding back on doing…
… you CAN do it.
So do it NOW.
Time to be a real genius.
Go for it!

 

One Comment on “My (unpopular) opinion on Da Vinci”

  1. Fair point about Leonardo vs Michelangelo. What’s really depressing in the context of this discussion, however, is that everyone sucks up the light bulb myth put out by a self-publicising American patent thief. I refer, of course, to Thomas Edison. Joseph Swan, working in the North East of England, patented a carbon filament light bulb design in 1860. Twenty years later, Edison, copying Swan’s bulb, registered a US patent for a carbon filament light bulb. So let’s hear it for Joseph Swan, a genuine English genius with an absolutely kicking beard (OK, he came from Sunderland, but no one’s perfect). It’s all in Wikipedia.

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